Chayei Sorah 5778


Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, traveled to the house of Besuel in search of a Shidduch for Yitzchak. When discussing the prospect of Yitzchak marrying Rivkah, Besuel’s daughter, Eliezer recounted his conversation with Avraham to his host. Eliezer said: ואמר אל אדני אלי לא תלך האשה אחרי (בראשית כד:לט), And I said to my master, “Perhaps the woman will not come with me” (Bereishis 24:39).
Rashi explains that the word אלי, perhaps, is usually spelled אולי, but here it is spelled without the letter “ו”. In this way it is the same spelling as אלי, to me. Eliezer had a daughter and wanted her to be Yitzchak’s wife. This is why he suggested that the girl would be unwilling to come with him, hoping that in that case the search for Yitzchak’s wife will “come to me” – would be his daughter.
Avraham explained to Eliezer, his servant, “My son is blessed. You come from Canaan who is cursed (by Noach). A cursed person cannot become attached to a person who is blessed.”
The Meforshim wonder why the Torah hinted this when Eliezer recounted his conversation with Avraham to Besuel. Shouldn’t it have been hinted earlier when the Torah related the actual conversation between Eliezer and Avraham?
By way of answer, the Midrash states that Eliezer acted with trickery in speaking with Besuel. His motive was for Rivkah’s family to turn down Avraham’s offer, with the hope that Yitzchak would marry his daughter. Do we really find, though, that Eliezer tried to sabotage the match of Yitzchak to Rivkah? We have only the hint that Eliezer originally requested that his daughter marry Yitzchak and that Avraham denied his request. Where do we see that, following Avraham’s rejection, Eliezer still hoped that Yitzchak might marry his daughter, even going so far as to interfere in the Shidduch with Rivkah?
The Dubno Magid explained with a parable. There was once a businessman who had an arrangement of purchasing on credit from a faraway wholesaler. He would send his trusted worker with a shopping list. The wholesaler would give him the merchandise and an invoice. Each time he came, the worker would bring payment for the previous purchase. This arrangement lasted many years.
One day the businessman came up with a nefarious plan. He prepared a shopping list for double the normal amount. His scheme was to make this enormous buy on credit, with the intent to never return and make payment to the wholesaler.
His trusted worker was an unwilling participant in his employer’s plan. He approached the scheming merchant, his boss, suggesting, “Perhaps the wholesaler won’t trust us with so much merchandise?”
The businessman replied that, as he had done business with this wholesaler for many years and was always trusted, this time should be no different.
The employee, forced to fulfill his employer’s charge, came to the wholesaler. He said, “My master requested I buy a larger amount of merchandise from you on credit, and I said to him, “It seems to me he won’t want to trust us with so much.” My master responded, “Go ahead anyway, he has always trusted us.”
The wholesaler thought about the conversation between the merchant and his worker. He concluded that the merchant meant to not repay him. He therefore refused to sell to him on credit. All this happened because the worker repeated what he asked his master, so that the wholesaler should understand that he shouldn’t proffer credit to the merchant.
Eliezer repeated his question to Rivkah’s family to create the same effect. When he suggested to Besuel, “Perhaps the woman will not come,” he wanted them to stop and wonder, “Might there be a reason why Rivkah should not go?” Could there be some hidden, private information we don’t know about? Eliezer hoped to create doubt in their minds so they would decline the Shidduch, leaving Yitzchak for his daughter. This is the reason the hint is found when Eliezer was speaking to Besuel.
The question remains, how could Eliezer hope that Yitzchak would be able to marry his daughter? Avraham told him that the blessed cannot marry the cursed. Furthermore, we see how devotedly he prayed to Hashem to help him find the right match for Yitzchak.
Reb Yaakov Kaminetsky explained from the Midrash that because of Eliezer’s devotion to Avraham, he rose above his origin as a Caanani and achieved the status of a ברוך, a person who is blessed, as it says in Bereishis 24:31. Realizing this, Eliezer thought that now he could merit to have Yitzchak for his daughter. This is the point at which Eliezer acted with deceit. (See אמת ליעקב that explains based on this the many switches of Eliezer’s titles throughout the Parsha between עבד, servant, and האיש, the man.)


Rabbi Akiva Eiger questions whether a person may transgress a Rabbinic prohibition in order to fulfiil the Mitzvah of Tefilla BeTzibbur. The example he gives is whether or not one may ride on a boat or swim on Shabbos in order to join a Minyan. Although Tefilla BeTzibbur is only a Rabbinic Mitzvah, and it would seem illogical to permit a Rabbinic prohibition in order to perform a Rabbinic Mitzvah, Rabbi Akiva Eiger reasons nonetheless that Tefilla BeTzibbur is very important. The Halacha says that a person must travel up to eighteen minutes out of his way in order to fulfill Tefilla BeTzibbur.
At a first glance, one would have a proof to this from the Gemara (Brachos 47b and Gittin 48a), where Reb Eliezer freed his Canaanite slave in order to have a tenth person for a Minyan. Freeing a Canaanite slave is prohibited on a Torah level, for there is a Torah Mitzvah to keep one’s Canaanite slave as a slave forever. Thus, if one is permitted to free a slave for Tefilla BeTzibbur, one may certainly transgress a Rabbinic prohibition for Tefilla BeTzibbur.
Rabbi Akiva Eiger answers that freeing the slave is no proof to this question. When Reb Eliezer freed his slave to form the Minyan, this was permitted, for the slave was specifically needed to be the tenth person to create the formation of the Tzibbur. The original case in question was merely whether a person may ride a boat or swim to join an existing Tzibbur. Similarly, if a Tzibbur needed a shofar on Rosh Hashana and needed to ride a boat to obtain the shofar, there would be no proof from the freeing of the slave. The slave was needed for the formation of the Tzibbur, but there is no specific Mitzvah of having a Tzibbur for Tekias Shofar.
Although when one would have to travel more than eighteen minutes out of his way in order to reach a Minyan he is exempt from doing so, there is still the question of his status if he actually chooses to travel.
One possibility is that since he was initially exempt from Tefilla BeTzibbur, there is no way to actually bring the obligation upon himself. One who actually reaches a Minyan under these circumstances would be similar to a woman who performs the Mitzvah of Lulav or any other time-bound Mitzvah from which she is exempt. The result is an optional Mitzvah as opposed to an obligatory Mitzvah.
Another possibility has to do with potential. If the person were actually close enough to a Minyan, he would be obligated. This possibility of obligation creates a potential that if he indeed was able to bring the obligation upon himself, then it would be on a level of pure obligation.
Therefore, according to the reasoning that the person is now obligated in the Mitzvah, it would be prohibited for him to walk away from the Mitzvah. According to the first approach, that reasons that the person can never bring about an obligation, he would be permitted to forgo the Mitzvah.